What began most likely as a childhood fantasy is now a clearer, more realistic vision for Trey Galgon. True, it's not yet reality, but it's out there in front of him. And he knows he's on the right path.

Galgon, a Penn Manor graduate, has been a NASCAR fan since age 5. These days, however, he's getting a closer look at his favorite sport … as a student tire specialist for ARCA Menards Series Rookie of the Year Tommy Vigh Jr.

It's part of Galgon's high performance automotive studies at the University of Northwestern Ohio, which creates student opportunities with ARCA through a school-supported club. The students are like paid interns, gaining valuable experience and lowering overhead costs for ARCA teams.

“It's more about getting the experience than the money,” Galgon said in a recent interview, during his holiday break here at home.

Though he's been a fan for much longer, Galgon said he began to think about a racing career in high school. He also knew he didn't have the money or the connections needed to launch a driving career, so he focused on becoming a mechanic.

That led him to the program at Northwestern Ohio. He was just getting started there in August 2018 when a friend recruited him to help at an ARCA race. He didn't have a designated role that day, so he did whatever grunt work he could. And something inside him clicked.

“It felt really good, just because when I was growing up, a lot of people told me getting into racing in general was really hard, and it was never going to happen,” he said. “That day was kind of like a wakeup call to me, that I'm finally getting to do something I really want to do.”

Now he's halfway through the school program and logged the entire 2019 ARCA season with Vigh's Fast Track Racing team as a tire specialist. On race day, he works with the crew chief to set tire pressures for a given track, then makes sure before the race starts that all tires, including those in reserve, are ready to go.

Leading into a pit stop, Galgon sees that crew members have the right tires for the right spots on the car. Because an out-of-position tire — which sometimes happens, he said — will impact performance. So will a tire under-inflated by even a pound of air pressure, according to the game plan.

Galgon traveled to all 20 races Vigh ran in 2019, carpooling with other student crew members (they're required to travel on their own). The university helps out by leaving Fridays open and providing options for making up classwork.

Just the chance to be seen working at a NASCAR track is valuable, Galgon said, “because we have that higher level looking over our shoulder at what we do. That's why I like to keep myself busy, from the moment I get to the track.”

Looking ahead, Galgon's plan has three parts. First, to join a truck team as a tire specialist. Second, with his education, become an engineer and crew chief. Ultimately, he wants to own his own truck team and coordinate a plan with Northwestern Ohio that offers another avenue for students.

Because sometimes, the biggest challenge is just finding the right road.

• Connect with Jeff Young, a former LNP sports editor, at youngjeff212@gmail.com.